Week one of the 2023 CFL season is in the books. After six months without the CFL, the league’s opening week provided a status quo-type feel. The two top teams in the West, and perhaps the league, flexed their muscles greatly while the CFL’s bottom-tier squads, despite promises of better days, were back to business as usual.
One week does not make an entire season. After all, there’s a full 18-game schedule ahead, plus the playoffs.
A year ago, a 4-5 team at the midway point wound up hoisting the Grey Cup trophy when the smoke settled. So a lot can change in the coming weeks and months. However, it’s hard not to view the opening week’s results as a glimpse of what’s to come the rest of the way. Especially at the top.
CFL 2023 Post Week One Power Rankings
#1: Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1-0)
To no one’s surprise, the team that has been to the last three Grey Cups is outstanding. And that might be underselling the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
The CFL’s best team came out the gates strong on Friday night, immediately jumping ahead of Hamilton by three scores. Winnipeg led 29-4 at the half, but they saw the Ti-Cats battle back, thanks to some hiccups along the way. However, the Bombers’ offensive attack, led by league MOP Zach Collaros was not to be denied at IG Field.
The Blue Bombers won 15 games last season and look every bit as good, if not better, on paper than they did a year ago. With veteran teams that have accomplished a lot, like Winnipeg, you wonder about motivation. But Winnipeg, after one week, looks like a hungry bunch, seething off last year’s finish and on a warpath to reclaim their throne atop the CFL.
In Week 2, Mike O’Shea’s team will head to Saskatchewan to face the Roughriders on Friday night.
#2: B.C. Lions (1-0)
The pecking order in the CFL’s West was firmly established in Week 1 as the B.C. Lions’ went into Calgary and beat the Stampeders 25-15.
Vernon Adams Jr. was on top of his game leading the Leos offensive attack against Calgary’s defence. One of the league’s most enigmatic and exciting players on the pivot looked like a superstar.
‘Big Play VA’ has had big games in the past, but he looked as comfortable as he’s ever been in his pro career. Against the Stamps, Adams was 28 of 36 passing for 270 yards and two scores and added 35 yards and a major on the ground.
The Lions, who fell short of a Grey Cup appearance against Winnipeg in the West Final, look every bit like a team that can knock the Bombers off their perch in the West.
It’s only one week, and there’s still a long way to go in the season. But if Vernon Adams continues to play at a high level, B.C. could be hoisting the Grey Cup trophy when the season ends.
In Week 2, B.C. is coming home to beautiful Vancouver to square off with the Edmonton Elks. Chris Jones’s team is literally going into the Lions’ den. If week one was any indication, and based on how the Leos toyed with the Elks last season, Saturday night’s game should be a party atmosphere for the Lions.
#3: Toronto Argonauts (0-0)
The 18-time defending Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts had a bye in Week 1. But they deserve this ranking until further notice. The Double Blue delivered some great news on Monday, announcing the return of CFL All-Star DB Jamal Peters after a brief dalliance in the NFL—Toronto’s first victory of the new season bringing back another integral part of their championship team in 2022.
On Sunday night, the winningest franchise in CFL history will have a celebration and coronation as they raise another banner at BMO Field. The Argos’ opening game against Hamilton will be a stiff challenge for the CFL champs. And an excellent test for Toronto in the new Chad Kelly era.
#4: Hamilton Tiger-Cats (0-1)
The strength of a schedule and the level of the opponent are significant factors in ranking teams. Sure, the Ti-Cats lost in week one, but it’s who they lost to and how they lost that puts them in the top half of this list.
Credit to Hamilton for battling back down 29-4 on the road against the Blue Bombers. They could have easily folded up shop. Instead they put up a fight but would eventually fall 42-31. An uber-talented Ti-Cats team showed glimpses of great potential heading forward. Even the Blue Bombers themselves tipped their helmets to Hamilton after the game.
Despite their opening loss to Winnipeg, there were plenty of bright spots for the Tiger-Cats. Bo-Levi Mitchell bounced back after a rough start, firmly establishing a connection with All-Star receiver Tim White. RB James Butler had a solid debut with 66 yards on the ground and a touchdown. But it was linebacker Jameer Thurman, arguably pound for the pound, the league’s best defensive player, who stood out the most from Hamilton’s new crop of arrivals. This trio of players for Hamilton could be difference-makers all season long.
The Ti-Cats drew the short end of the stick with their opening schedule. They opened at Winnipeg and now face a fresh Argos team in Toronto as their rivals hoist another championship banner in front of them. For the Ti-Cats to get back to a Grey Cup, again at home, they must get through the Argos in the East. Hamilton can send a massive statement towards that cause on Sunday night.
#5: Saskatchewan Roughriders (1-0)
Week one’s 17-13 victory by the Roughriders over the Edmonton Elks wasn’t pretty. But it was a positive first step for a Saskatchewan team trying to erase last season’s ugliness.
Thanks to a tremendous goal-line stand by their defence in the fourth quarter, the Riders found a way to eke by Edmonton on the road.
In a very competitive West, you take any divisional win on the road you can get and rejoice.
Saskatchewan has a top rushing attack, defence, and special teams. If the Riders can keep getting efficient performances from new quarterback Trevor Harris, which is part of his player DNA. They will be very competitive all season long.
Week 2, however, provides the Riders’ first big test as they open their season at home against the almighty Blue Bombers. Outside of ultra-loyalists, no one expects Saskatchewan to top Winnipeg, but if they do, it will change the tone of their 2023 campaign significantly.
#6: Montreal Alouettes (1-0)
Unlike Eastern rival Hamilton, the Alouettes faced the perfect week one opponent at home in Ottawa—a Redblacks team still without starting pivot Jeremiah Masoli.
New Als quarterback Cody Fajardo and Jason Maas’s offensive attack didn’t exactly fly perfectly in week one. However, CFL rookie WR Austin Mack had an excellent debut for Montreal. The Ohio State standout and former NFL receiver had four receptions for 120 yards. No one can replace Geno Lewis, but perhaps Mack can ease the loss of that key departure.
In Week One, Montreal leaned heavily on multiple David Cote field goals and a defence that flustered Ottawa quarterback Nick Arbuckle into three interceptions. After an offseason of significant change, they needed to open 2023 in this fashion.
The Alouettes get a week off before returning to face the Tiger-Cats in Hamilton’s home opener. That game will reveal more about the quality of Montreal’s squad than their opening game did.
#7: Calgary Stampeders (0-1)
It’s foolhardy to write off the Stamps after only one game against a top-tier opponent like British Columbia. Considering the fact that Calgary has been a model of consistency in the CFL for nearly two decades.
However, Week one’s loss to the Leos’ had an ominous feel. As if not only has a changing of the guard happened in the West. But a decline in quality has finally arrived for the Stamps.
It wasn’t only the less-than-stellar turnout at McMahon, which lacked any energy for a season opener. But the Stampeders seemed a step slow and outmatched talent-wise against B.C. Perhaps the loss of impact players like Jameer Thurman will finally take its toll. The Stamps usually overcome talent defections year in and year out. Maybe not this time.
You knew things would not go Calgary’s way in the opening game when the always-reliable Rene Paredes missed two easy (for his standards) field goals to start the action. An anomaly considering the reliable All-Star kicker usually goes almost an entire season without missing that many kicks. Let alone in one game.
After getting jumped early against the Lions, Calgary’s coaching made some adjustments, and they battled back to make a game of things. But it never felt like they would be good enough to win.
The good news for the Stampeders is they get a vulnerable Ottawa team in Week 2, albeit on the road Thursday night. Dave Dickenson’s young team has a realistic chance to bounce back against an inferior opponent. So perhaps, the Stamps’ premature projected demise can be delayed for a while.
#8: Edmonton Elks (0-1)
Unfortunately, despite some positives produced by new arrivals like superstar WR Eugene Lewis. The storyline coming of week one for Edmonton is their continued failings at home. The Elks haven’t won in Edmonton since 2019, and their week one 17-13 loss was another in a long list of demoralizing defeats in their building the last few seasons.
Nothing epitomized Edmonton’s evils more than their failed series at the goal line against Saskatchewan. Surprisingly, the Elks played well enough defensively to beat the Riders, but in the game’s most crucial moment. Chris Jones’s squad squandered what is typically a layup opportunity in the CFL, failing to score at the one-yard line on multiple tries.
Things will probably get worse for Edmonton before they get better in 2023. That’s because they are headed to B.C. on Saturday night.
#9: Ottawa REDBLACKS (0-1)
A week ago, I rated Ottawa last in these rankings heading into the 2023 CFL season.
For all the positive vibes attached to the hire of Bob Dyce and the team’s acquisitions of quality players in the last few years. Until the Redblacks get adequate play from their QB position, they will continue to be a bottom-of-the-barrel outfit.
Nick Arbuckle’s dreadful week one performance against Montreal (19/35 176 yards and three interceptions) has Ottawa wishing that Jeremiah Masoli’s return can be expedited quicker before their season falls entirely apart.
The Redblacks were competitive in week one but are so outmatched at the game’s most crucial position. Until Jeremiah Masoli returns and proves that he can play at an all-star level. The light at the end of the tunnel looks as dim as it’s been for Ottawa the last few years.
In Week 2, Ottawa is home for Calgary before their first bye week of the season takes place in Week 3. Considering their circumstances at quarterback, the Redblacks probably wish two of their bye weeks could be used up right now.
CFL 2023 Week Two Schedule
Thursday, June 15
|Calgary Stampeders at Ottawa Redblacks||7:30pm||CFL+||Buy Tickets|
Friday, June 16
|Winnipeg Blue Bombers at Saskatchewan Roughriders||9:00pm||CBSSN/CFL+||Buy Tickets|
Saturday, June 17
|Edmonton Elks at BC Lions||7:00pm||CBSSN/CFL+||Buy Tickets|
Sunday, June 18
|Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Toronto Argonauts||7:00pm||CBSSN/CFL+||Buy Tickets|
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